Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cedarburg Bog

Sunday afternoon when we arrived home from Philly, we noticed Taran's nose was dripping....and dripping....and dripping. By Tuesdy afternoon he had a fever of 102° , on Wednesday he was diagnosed with an ear infection and on Thursday, his total body was covered in hives. I think in the 9 days that he was acutely sick, he cried more than he had in the whole year prior. He spent hours a day crying while I or Joe held him - usually me, because Joe got extremely sick himself a week after Taran started feeling ill.

On one of the warmer days, I got him outside to soak up a little warmth. No matter how yuck he's feeling, being in fresh air always cheers him up, even if just temporarily.

We explored some bugs,

rolled in the grass

and snuggled in the sunshine

Last Tuesday, on the 9th day after he first got sick, he woke up chortling to himself in his crib - Happy Man was back! And just in time too, because I was booked on a flight to Milwaukee, WI leaving Thursday night and I hated to leave a sick Little.

Why Milwaukee you ask? Well technically, I was heading to the Cedarburg Bog in Saukville, WI for a two day workshop at the University of Milwaukee Field Station titled "Writing on the Natural World". It was strange to be away from home, but the workshop was amazing and I'm so glad I went. It was a combination of walks through the bog and surrounding woods, lessons on the local ecology, and writing/lecture time. The first day we covered poetry and the second day, essays. I have to say, I was much more comfortable with the poetry (must be the lack of organization). I don't spend that much time in my daily life sitting around composing poetry, but given the time, it's something I really enjoy. Here is one of the on-the-fly poems that I wrote - I'm not claiming to be William Carlos Williams or anything, but I was mildly pleased nontheless:

So tired of the tepid, limp, insipid store veggies
Shipped from Who Knows Where
Terra firma a distant memory

Impatiently, I await the thawing of my backyard dirt
Rashly planting at the first hint of a warm day
Then watching my rapini seedlings brown and curl with rime

Trying to cheat germination
I blow back the soil from the narrow crack where I've sown the seeds
Hoping that will alone can call forth the first furled shoot

As I stare into the shriveled wasteland of my crisper
At the same cellophane wrapped mushrooms and standard variety zucchini 
That I ate last week and last week and last week....

I get a sharp pang for the sweet pea pop
The oozy warm tang of heirloom tomatoes, seeds and juice pooling in the webs of my fingers
The astringent smack of bitter greens, slick with grassy olive oil

The age range of the participants was between 20 and 85 and although people's life experiences were vastly different (a former Chicago Tribune journalist, a soon-to-be vet student), I enjoyed hearing EVERYONE's snippets of writing so much. Things I had only half-noticed  become vivid through other's descriptions. On several occasions, I found myself letting out with an exhalation of disappointment when a particularly fine reading came to a close.

The younger crowd were students and after the first day, they went back to Milwaukee for the evening but the rest of us stayed out in a farm house at the field station in bunk beds. At almost 40, I was decidedly the youngest of those that stayed behind.. With the sick family the week before, the travel, and the time shift,  I was running on empty and planning to be in bed early, but  I couldn't resist staying up late to talk to two of the women, Helen and Julie. Julie was a bit of an enigma to me, not shy, but hovering on the edge of engagement. Most of us shared our writing but Julie never did and I was sad to never hear her voice, she intrigued me and I wanted to know what she had to say. Helen, was the 85 year old participant. She was sharp and charismatic, an accomplished actress and published writer with 5 kids and 14 grandkids and boy could she tell a good story. I could have just stayed up all night soaking her in. Both of them really. All of them really

Here are a couple photos of Helen holding a blue-spotted salamander on one of our walks

And one of Julie walking alone on the path, the colors of her clothes blending into the surroundings.

It was hard to say goodbye to the Bog too - it was eerie and beautiful and I took about a million photos (ok, 200, but you know what I mean). I had to laugh, because the thing I ended up photographing most was tree bark. I'll spare you all every bark picture, but here are a couple worth sharing.

Ok, one more. I can't resist.

I liked this one because it reminded me of ancient Anasazi caves in the desert.

I did take one or two other pictures that weren't of bark

I loved these memorial planks on the boardwalk across the bog. I wouldn't mind that. Just a simple etched piece of wood with my name on it. 

Leaving Taran was not easy for me. I agonized about it for 3 months ahead of time, worried that he'd be traumatized or angry at me for leaving like he got the one other time that I was away from him for my cousin's wedding. But Joe's parents, who Taran is absolutely nuts about came to stay to help ease the time and he was so happy to be with them. And it was fine. And I was deeply grateful for a little time to be myself - not a Wife, a Mom, a Researcher. Just me, in the woods, writing a few lines of bad poetry. 

On that note, we were asked at the end of the first day to write a hymn of praise, so here is mine:

Iron Filings to a magnet
I praise the warmth of home - the easy smiles, the soft kisses, the shining eyes. I praise the spills, and the falls, and the learning. I praise my partner in crime, the father of my child, the man I admire.
I praise the love


I praise the courage to leave, the step forward, the branching out. I praise the time to explore, to see new things, to think new thoughts. I praise the reflection inward, the jolt out of the ordinary, the spring cleaning of my mind. 
I praise myself

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Yamas" and other firsts

Oh, my, I feel a little sad when I look at the date of my last posting. How is it that two weeks have passed already?! I never even finished talking about Taran's firsts. And I definitely want to, because it's the perfect way to finally get a picture of Joe on here.

So....On April 6th, all three of us flew out to Philadelphia for Taran's first Passover. I think this is the first passover that I've been with all of my family since my Grandmother died when I was eleven. My Aunt Bobbi (or "The Bobbi" as Taran calls her) hosted at her tiny apartment in Center Philly and my Mom, sisters, their partners, my cousin and his wife were all there as well as my Aunt's very close friend, Hilary.

Taran was really excited about the yarmulke ("Yama") - and the whole seder dinner for that manner - for about two minutes, but luckily my camera has a quick shutter speed so I managed to get this photo just in time before the moment was gone.

Within five minutes of this photo, he wanted down. He promptly strolled over to the cat's water dish and dumped it all over himself requiring an outfit change (the t-shirt theme seemed appropriate)....

.... but once he had a distraction, dinner was a little more smooth...

...and in the end, a good time was had by all...

Seriously, we had a great time, if not a bit fleeting. It means a lot to me that Taran gets a chance to know my family and vice versa and it's exciting to hear him call them by name, even if it gets a big garbled ("Pauly", "Jenjy"...).

While we were in Philly, we also had a chance to take Taran on his first carousel ride. I thought he would be absolutely to the moon, but honestly, I think he was a bit overwhelmed.

He had a better time wearing The Bobbi's slippers while climbing the cat ramp,  

Learning how to say new and interesting things from Aunt "Jenjy",

"I'm a Mookie!"
Exploring the many uses of a cat tunnel with Aunt Anna,

and getting snuggles from Grammy Pauly.

For my part, I was happy to soak up my family. I live almost 8 hours away now and, with a toddler, it might as well be 8 days for how difficult it is to travel. I loved being with everyone, I loved seeing my husband and son enjoy being with them too, I loved watching my cousin Jimmy and his new wife Jamie guide us bad Jews and non-Jews through the seder dinner.

I'm grateful to my Aunt Bobbi for bringing us all together. We talked about making this an annual tradition and I hope that we do. Thank you The Bobbi for an amazing weekend! We were all so happy to soak up your love.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dandelion clocks

Copper penny hair
Silent in discovery
Dandelion clocks

This past week has been a week of many firsts for Taran and I've been intending to write about them all but was somewhat waylaid by a trip to Philly for Passover this past weekend (more on that to come in a later post). I ought to be heading to bed, but I couldn't resist a quick sum up of one of my favorite of last week's discoveries - dandelion clocks. Last Wednesday afternoon I took Taran out in the yard to play while I attacked a few of the copious dandelions that have begun to run amok in our meadow of a back yard, thanks in part to a very early spring. As I carefully moved from plant to plant, digging deep to pull out the long, tendrilly roots, Taran shuffled next to me in my neon green garden clogs. Suddenly I looked up to see him blowing dandelion clocks - a spontaneous discovery unprompted by me. I had to laugh at the irony of laboriously pulling the bully plants one by one while he gleefully spread the seeds by the score. Ha! I wished so much that I had a camera to capture that moment, but it was laying inside and I knew the moment would be over before I came back. I figured that I'd come back out with him the next day and he'd be happy to blow dandelion clocks then while I merrily shot great shots in the warm, honey sunshine. Isn't it funny how we have these lovely fantasies of how things will be with our toddlers and then there is reality.

The next morning was cold and gray and when I looked out the window, I saw the lawn mower guy pulling up out front. (A bit of self-disclosure here, we don't mow our own lawn. With a toddler, we seem to be either capable of the weekend ritual house clean-up or mowing the lawn, but decidedly not both.) Anyway, as it was just April, the lawn had not yet been mowed and was in a wild meadow state which, minus the dandelions, I actually love.

I rushed Taran into his winter coat and ran outside with him dragging off one arm and my new (ok kinda old, but new to me - yay craigslist!) DSLR camera dragging off the other. These suckers are waaay heavier then I imagined. I'm talking about the camera, not the kid. Although he's getting kind of heavy these days too. With a bright grin on my face and my fabulous camera ready I said

Me: Taran, wanna blow some dandelions?
Taran: No.
Me: Are you SURE? They were so fun yesterday.
Taran: No.
Me: But the lawn mower man is coming and they will all be gone. Just one little blow?
Taran: No.

I should point out that Taran's pronouncement of "No" was another first this week. He's always been a "yeah, yeah, yeah" kind of guy, and while I realize that the right to say "No" is a huge, important part of his development, and I feel kind of proud of his assertion of self....I think I liked "Yeah!" better.

So anyway, no Kodak moments of my son blowing dandelions were to be had. But I did get a few cute ones of his reaction to the lawn mower being driven in through our back yard.

And one of the lawn mower guy, Gregory, looking less than thrilled that I was taking his picture.

I was kind of sad to see the tall grass go. I was beginning to love the meadow and all it's accompanying insects. I can't wait for all my flowers to start coming up so they will come back. Here's another little Haiku that I wrote that night.

Grim reaper lawn man
Meadow falling to your blades
How many bugs lost?

If you are wondering why all the Haikus? Well I mentioned that I have a master plan for an alternative career path which I'll talk about later, but as part of that plan, I'm heading to Milwaukee next week for a two day workshop on Writing on the Natural World. The participants have been given a couple of preparatory assignments to turn in on the first day and one of them involves composing several very brief daily observations about nature. The teacher suggested writing them in tweet form, but non-direction-follower that I am, I've been writing them in Haiku form instead. I'm getting kind of obsessed. I walk around all day composing little Haikus in my head. I suppose there are worse addictions.

I'm really excited about the workshop, but really nervous to leave Taran behind. Joe has had to go away several Times over the last 21 months since Taran was born - once as far away as Haiti for a 10 day research trip. So generally, Taran is relatively unfazed by this. Or at least has a clear understanding that Papa will return. The only time I've been away from Taran is when my husband and I were gone for a 2 day trip to Philadelphia for my cousin's wedding last Fall. Upon our return, Taran took one look at Joe and said "yeah, yeah, yeah". And completely ignored me for about 4 hours. I mean, he let me have it. So I'm not thrilled about this part of going away. But who knows with a toddler. Who they are today is not necessarily who they will be tomorrow so maybe it will all be just fine. I hope.

As a final aside, I mentioned in my last post that my friend Sarah posed a challenge to her friends to share weekly "selfies" (self-photographs) on her blog. Somehow, I never got a post up last week for reasons aforementioned and the closest I got to a self-portrait was one of my feet. Better than nothing?